“No feats of scholarship console us for bloodshed.”
-Robert Vansittart, 1st Baron Vansittart
There are epochal battles blazing around the world,
Blinding to those who look, shrapnel of noon-day sun
In the concerned citizen’s eye.
In my grandfather’s day I might’ve enlisted
Physical courage, learned to parade and to kill, given
My life or spent a lifetime writing of valor and victory.
Each generation has had its wars, but never such as these:
Conquered lands rising up in flame, conquered seas in foam
And man, in charge of everything, losing all control.
Now there are those who camouflage themselves in disgust,
Holed up in their living rooms, shouting at the evening news;
And others who grab for a machine gun to fire at an inferno.
(Once soldiers sought immortality in verse, believing
That civilization would last, if not forever, for long enough.
But we know too much of history, and ecology, and physics.)
Does poetry not make anything happen?
Does it not survive?
Is it not a way of happening, a mouth?*
I’ll tell you what poets can do in war:
Open our mouths like uncultured beasts whose roar and spit
Makes all predators stop dead and listen.
*From W.H. Auden’s “In Memory of W. B. Yeats.”
Andrew Posner grew up in Los Angeles. In 2009, he founded Capital Good Fund, a nonprofit lender. He has been published in several journals, including Burningword Literary Journal (which nominated his poem ‘The Machinery of the State’ for the Pushcart Prize) and The Esthetic Apostle.
Photo by Chandler Cruttenden.